An elk face-plants on a dirt road after tripping over a fence. A mule deer entangles a hind leg in barbed wire. Pronghorn expend precious energy as they travel the long way to avoid a natural gas field.
In “Barriers,” a short film the Wyoming Migrations Initiative and University of Wyoming released this month, viewers are confronted with footage and facts that can be difficult.
That’s by design; one of the film’s goals is to help the audience visualize the consequences of migration barriers as animals experience them, according to producers.
“We want viewers to have an emotional journey through the eyes of wildlife, to get that up-close visceral experience of animals struggling with migration barriers,” Gregory Nickerson of the WMI (and a former WyoFile reporter) told WyoFile in an email.
The film also offers solutions, though, for overcoming human-created obstacles like fences, developments and highways that threaten the long-term health of migration-dependent animals. These include fence modifications, highway over- and under-passes and conservation initiatives. In that way, Nickerson said, the hope is to inspire optimism.
“Overall there is an optimistic message that people across the West and the world are already getting together and using wildlife movement data to resolve barriers with win-win solutions,” he wrote.
The film uses footage collected from dozens of filmmakers and agencies as well as GPS collar data and state-of-the art cartography that maps real-life migration patterns. While it focuses on animals of the American West like pronghorn, mule deer and other ungulates that range across Wyoming, it also touches on similar efforts in places like Argentina and Zimbabwe.